Q. I have decided I will not deal with my husband’s family anymore. They are intolerant, judgmental and obnoxious, and I have put up with them for many years and have had enough. Our children are now grown and I feel no need to go to their gatherings or invite them to my home anymore. My husband cannot deal with the shift. He thinks we’ve put up with them for so long that it is not fair to change at this point. He believes we should welcome them like we used to, and that if I were to stop visiting them it would cause too much drama. We are butting heads about this constantly.

A: How lovely to decide not to deal with your in-laws anymore and to forevermore bar them for your home. Except for the fact that you want to stay married to your husband. Look, I understand your frustration and your desire to be free. But you can’t pretend this should be a unilateral decision. Neither of you will win if it’s seen as all-or-none. Why not start with a phase-out period, where you get a bit more distance, deciding the what and the how with each potential outing? That allows for changes of heart, too — like his realizing your absence from a barbecue isn’t fatal, or your discovering that you miss talking about the Instant Pot with your sister-in-law. And have you even offered them feedback on their behavior? Perhaps giving them a tangible opportunity to change can be part of the plan as well.

Q: In the past year, my mother passed away, I lost my job and I broke up with a long-term boyfriend, and I’m now getting tested for a chronic illness. I understand what depression is, and mine feels simpler than that — that I am broken and have given all I have. I’d never do anything to hurt myself, but how do you grow strong when you feel you have no strength left?

A: In short, you ask for help, and you take it. In your case, a professional is warranted. A big misconception about psychotherapy is that it means something is wrong with you (though of course when there actually is a disorder, therapy’s role is key). In reality, therapy can be helpful support for people who have simply been dealt a lot of blows. You certainly qualify. The fact that your strength feels depleted is not a sign of weakness — it’s a sign of what you’re up against. Resilience is built through behavioral goal-setting, establishing coping mechanisms, exploring and adjusting your thought patterns, having your emotions validated, and establishing a clearer “big picture.” It’s hard to do these things on your own, even with a particularly comfy couch. Please consider help.

Q: I tend to feel very emotional after physical intimacy. It’s usually like vulnerability, feeling very exposed and sometimes tearful. I do not feel very sad per se, but just intense and sometimes like I am going to cry. I have become the opposite of the stereotypical girl who wants to cuddle because I actually want to get away and be by myself. I’m dating someone I really care about and don’t know how to do this without hurting his feelings.

A: If you really care about this person, you’ve got a great opportunity in not pushing him away. Of course, you don’t have to suddenly open the floodgates and let him in to something that you don’t feel comfortable with. But if you want a chance to connect, this is it. Feeling vulnerable after sex is not something to be ashamed of — in fact, it’s probably evolutionary in order to encourage bonding, and the mind-body connection is such that this might be unlocking pent-up feelings that you’re holding in during daily life. If you try to figure out why you want to be by yourself during those times (Embarrassment? Awkwardness? Fear of getting hurt?), it can help you understand what you’re guarding against. But ultimately, if you want to grow your relationship with this person, it would be tough to do so if you keep disappearing — emotionally and physically — during times of such potential connection.

Andrea Bonior, a Washington-area clinical psychologist, writes a weekly relationships advice column in The Washington Post’s Express daily tabloid and is author of “The Friendship Fix.” For more information, see www.drandreabonior.com. You can also follow her on Twitter: @drandreabonior.


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